Sunday, December 26, 2010

'Scottish' matryoshka dolls

The Highland-Russian Connection Charity is at this moment winging its way to Siberia with an exhibition of Scottish art and Matryoshka dolls painted by Scottish artists.  Here is the set I painted.

I wanted to avoid the obvious tartan , Celtic knotwork and St Andrews flag, as others had done a lovely job with these motifs already. So I aimed for a more intuitive Celtic feel.  Had there been three dolls, I would have done the triple goddess of the Celts, the Mother, the maiden and the hag. Had there been 4 dolls, the elements. Instead I seem to have ended up with more different aspects of womanhood. The harvest queen earth mother, The warrior queen, the holy woman, the witch, the child. They were fun to paint although it took ages to build up the colours. I like painting on objects rather than just paper.

Christmas designs round up.

A Belated and very merry Christmas to everyone.

Heres the Christmas card design I did this year

Heres one I did for Scottish Union Learning, a branch of the Trades Union Council.

Heres the Hi-Ex one, idea from Rich.

The Highland-Russian Connection Charity one, which I've posted previously

and me in xmas preparation mode.

New year next week, then what? 2011 is a whole lot of empty so far - more unpredictable adventure & hectic rock & roll or more endless unfulfilling lonely grind? I'll try & get a moment to indulge in a year review, always a slightly scary exercise because;
a) i forget everything with my scatty here & now brain
b) it feels like such and ego game, I mean who cares what i did in 2010 !?
c) Did I really do so much and achieve so little? where is it all going? why? what next ?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Highland-Russian artwork in RSJournal

I haven't had time to blog for a wee bit, have been too busy battling the logistics of surviving Ice and Snow bound Britain. Our house is cold and drafty, so Its hard work staying warm and functioning at -15C outdoors. My van needs replacing and refuses to start in the cold. Every meeting class, or project I've had on since November has been cancelled or postponed, the post hasn't been arriving, Christmas in short has been impossible to organise. But those of you in the UK already know all this as you are in the same boat.

The very lovely people at the Ross Shire journal put this article in about the Highland Russian  Connection charity with my artwork I did for a Christmas card design for them. Our artwork will be ( hopefully! ) wining its way to Siberia this weekend, I wish Elena and her family a safe journey & good luck getting there !

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

More 'Impressions'

Kirkton Wood

Winter Wind on Lochcarron

Russian Forest

Heres three painting I did on My painting Course today. We are still working on Opaque, impressionistic use of acrylics. good fun to just play , loosen up & paint again as it seems a while since I've had a chance. These are around A3. The class was cancelled last week with the snow, the small church hall we use has also not had any water for three weeks, so its hard keeping brushes and palettes clean with just a bucket full of water!
( all for sale, if you are local, I'll deliver in time for Christmas ! )

Monday, December 06, 2010

Christmas Cheer

every year, I refuse to think about Christmas until its too late, the roads are blocked and I've no money for anything anyway. Whilst I love the snow, and the 'idea' of midwinter festivities..the reality is cold, dark & a battle against the humbug monster. Me and the posse need to go tree hunting though soon...

Friday, December 03, 2010

Profile - Pyschomoda Ladies Clothing

Little did we know as young art students what lay ahead of us. Thanks to the wonders of the interweb and social networking we can not only reflect on our own paths into adult hood but also upon those of our college peers. I have been very humbled and inspired by becoming reacquainted with my former flatmates. In some cases there has been a gap of twenty years, but what is time? Those varied mad cap characters I found myself thrown in with during the mid 1980's became a strange new family, all of us different- Each one has gone on to do amazing things.

I asked my Friend and former flatmate Alison Harm, who now runs Psychomoda Ladies Clothing and the Montague Bar in Edinburgh to fill me in a little about how she got where she is now- despite the 'un-constructive' experiences we all had at Edinburgh College of Art.

Alison tells us;
 "I came to Edinburgh by accident, I was supposed to go to kingston on Thames, but got waylayed by love , my then boyfriend applied to Edinburgh, so did I, so we could be together.(it didn't last, of course!)

I always knew i was going to be a fashion designer, from around age of 5 or 6, I did a diploma in fashion after my A levels at South Sheilds Marine and tech. I did very well on this course, so transferred directly to 2nd year at Edinburgh.

I had a terrible time at Edinburgh college of art. The tutor was terrible, she never looked at or marked my work, and when I complained I was labelled as a trouble maker, and then constructively expelled.if it happened today, I would take them to court. I was entangled in a bureaucratic nightmare that was nothing to do with me, and duly scapegoated for it. College entirely prepared me for the real world, the backstabbing, the bitching, the nepotism, it's all there , and my biggest lesson from college was how to give it a wide berth in the future.

When I left the college I was very low in confidence, but I was given a job in knitwear by an ex tutor who had seen first hand my experiences at the college, but who recognised that I had a talent for my subject. I thank her Helen Baber, from "Bill Baber Knitwear", in the Grassmarket , Edinburgh. one of the best knitwear designers I have ever seen.and an altogether wonderful person.

I set up my own knitwear design company about a year after leaving college, and had a great deal of success selling at craft fairs and markets. there was no Internet then , or I would have probably gone down that line
after a few years, I grew tired of knitwear and returned to fashion design taking advantage of a growing re-cycling market, and continued at the markets with this product. It was immensely successful, I was returning home with empty bags after a days trading, so I opened a shop.

 My first shop  in 1992 was very re-cycling orientated, even the decor and fittings were re-created from junk. the clothes mainly made from old curtains, grunge was in style, and it sold well. after a few years, I moved to a better location, where I have been ever since. The market for re-cycled garments dropped off, so I started with the new fashion , which at the time was club and resort wear. after a few years of this, it swung to Hollywood style evening wear, and now burlesque. Right now we have come full circle and re-cycled and re-worked vintage as well as reproduction vintage, and eco friendly fabrics and yarns are in fashion.

sometimes people say "oh your stuff has changed" and my reply is "so does fashion" that's the point!
my work is massively inspired by Vivienne Westwood, and the late great Alexander Mcqueen, as well as a whole host of other designers, things that go on around me in the world, and inspiration from the street up are important, new technology in fabrics always challenges, and inspires, re-using and re-cycling, and recently the availability of new generation eco products, especially in knitted fibres, which i have made a return to.

My work is eclectic and varied. It is customer orientated -as in- I design and advise around the customers requirements rather than impose my taste on to them.

My idealism is about empowering women, and helping them to feel confident in their given situations. So many women have so many things about their bodies that they are embarrassed about or ashamed of, this leads to them being under confident in social situations. If a dress has been made to measure taking your own body shape into consideration, it can make you feel so much better about yourself, and able take it all on.

 I make a full time living from my work, and employ an assistant. My husband and I also run The Montague bar, and I work in that, as well as being a mum. At the moment I am working on vintage remodelling, to sell on the rails, and on my new online shop . I always have made to measure orders on the go, including wedding dresses and evening wear.

In an ideal world, I would still do this, but make more money from it !!!!

my biggest frustration as a designer is women not believing in themselves, and imposing design "rules" on their wardrobe, e.g, " I can't wear red, I had my colours done, and she said you cant wear red " what a load of rubbish.!!!
 or, "I am too young/old/fat/thin/short/tall/black/white to wear that" sometimes its true, but usually not and just down to their own misconceptions about their bodies, and social rules they adhere to. Women are their own worst enemies when it comes to this.

my new online shop is called "Angelic Upstart" as I like to give a kick in the pants to convention now and again. there is also a strong underlying original punk element to my work , which rears its head from time to time.

My biggest pleasure, work - wise is when an under confident woman steps out of my fitting room  looking like a movie star with a big grin on her face- That's what its all about. I also love my "life long" customers  ( prom dress/ graduation dress/ wedding dress/ etc) because that's my confirmation that I have hit the nail on the head.

I would advise aspiring designers, to avoid art college like the plague, get an apprenticeship, learn to sew (its amazing how many don't)  explore your medium, start young, don't take any gap years (competition is too hot) practise on anyone you can get to stand still long enough, don't get ideas above yourself, you are not Gods gift to fashion, don't charge by the hour (you will be slow to start with, and you will price-out) don't try to make people into your dream, rather, shape your dream around their requirements, try to create a continuity in your collections, and let them evolve from one year to the next rather than try to come up with a totally new and original idea every season.Break new ideas in gently...and most of all, stay in fashion !!! if you go too far ahead, the buying public will not understand it. they want what they have seen down the shops only with slight differences. Cater for large sizes."

You can see more of Alison's work at;

Angelic Upstart at
Psychomoda Ladies Clothing on facebook
Psychomoda, 22 st. Mary's street, Edinburgh, EH11SU, 0131 557 6777

Many Thanks for sharing that with us Alison!
Now the rest of you get down there & lets re-claim our right to dress up & feel good about ourselves!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Highland-Russian Connection artwork

Heres a design I've just finished for the lovely people at the Highland Russian Connection charity. It feels like I left a big chunk of my heart in Russia, that Russian sunrise over the river Kama, the call to prayer from the mosque at 3am, the moon hung in starry skies, the friendship, honestly, warmth, the lilt of the language. I miss it.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Birthday painting

Heres a wee painting I finished today for my younger sisters Birthday . Its kind of about flying. about 18cm x 18cm acrylics.

Monday, November 29, 2010

impressionist style

so the module my painting course is now on, is Impressionism, some students liked the opaque painting, others hated it, I am ambivalent as I prefer a controlled build up, sort of , sometimes. heres what I did by way of play this beautiful blue snow shadowed morning during class ( from photies, its way to cold for Plein air ! )

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Doing a module with my painting students on Gouache and abstraction. Figure I have to do the exercises too rather than just looming over their shoulders at their work. Problem is I'm allergic to still lives, I think my art college experiences of them valuing frying pans and fruit over my fantastical and figurative leanings has put me off objects for life. I mean whats the point other than a technical exersise, what is interesting about looking at a bowl of fruit on the wall? no matter how beautifully rendered. But thats just me. So I took down to class some musical instruments and machinery. This is what I made of it. The first two were fun, but failed the opaque paint brief.
Next week we're into impressionistic style landscapes, much more my cup of tea....or rather sea, rock and cloudscape, no more crockery. Hurrah!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thought Bubble festival

We had heard many good things about Leeds Thought Bubble Festival and long wanted to go. As event organisers ourselves it’s good to have a nosey at the other comic events, to see what we could do better, differently, how they all fit into the UK comic event scene, and find ways that we can all work together. I certainly don’t view another event as competition, the UK comics industry needs all the promotion it can and I see us as all working on the same side, covering different genres, regions and demographics.

We usually can’t make this Leeds event, due to finances (none) and time (none), running Hi-Ex early spring means that by the winter months I am glued to the computer desperately trying to pull some funding, guests and exhibitors together. We have cancelled Hi-Ex 2011 to allow us time to catch up with our own projects and try to access funding in time for 2012. This has also meant we could change our routine and instead of travelling to the Big show at Birmingham in October to promote Hi-Ex, we could do Leeds, relax and enjoy the company of many great comic people instead.

Enjoy it we did! Its hard to describe events like this without shamelessly namedropping like mad. I love to get to spend time & get to know better people. I love meeting new inspiring people- always easier when I’m not trying to promote something. I love getting to put faces to names of social network contacts and talking to folks face to face. I love relaxing and laughing until I’m giddy with people on the same wavelength, talking art, talking storytelling, talking geek stuff, talking rubbish. Good times.

( Adi Granov and Tamsin, meeting the fans and sketching for charity )

( Sarah MacIntyre runs a packed children's activity corner )

( John Romita Jnr meets the fans )

Lisa the organiser and her team deserve many medals. Running our own convention we know only too well the brain frying utter exhausting months of graft, the frustration, the highs and lows. Yet Lisa always managed to remain charming, calm, helpful, attentive and radiant, all the time dealing with 73 things at once. Much kudos to her and all the others who worked so hard to bring this festival together.

( Boo Cook and Gemma )

Another lovely thing about Thought Bubble, was that I was instantly struck by the gender balance- this can only be healthy, the rest if the world seems to not have the same hang ups about comics as the UK ( and the USA? ). Comics are not just for kids, nor just for adults, not just for middle aged men who live with their mum- nor are they a Genre, but a medium, a medium which overlaps many others which normal non-geeks readily consume. Stories, pictures, words, art.

( Sasha is Time Bomb's booth babe )

(Tom as a clone trooper meets Darth Vader - with Dredd loitering behind )

 Comics are not just created by and for men. In Japan there is a comic for every taste, in France every household reads them, they are available on supermarket shelves. Wonderful then to see that Though Bubble reflected this balance, I can’t help but think that this was also down to the character of the organisers, does having women on the management team encourage women participants? or are things just shifting ?
During the Saturday convention there were also many small children and babies even which was wonderful to see.

( Ben and baby Dylan )

I ran a workshop on Sunday in the Leeds Art Gallery. There were Gormley and Moore statues in the entrance, Goldsworthy and Perry peices on the way to the ladies room- We forget living so remote, the impact that great artworks can have, I never thought of Leeds as an arts centre, but it certainly seemed that way this weekend.

( Rich and Dave, the ever popular Futurequake booth babes )

The workshop was on Eco-mini comics- We’ve taken a box of old comics, paper & cardboard down, add stables, hole puncher, string , scissors and glue and some great and groovy little comic books got created- the participants all assuring me that they’d got lots of ideas for books to make at home. Result! You see, a blank piece of paper can be too intimidating to a young person, the act of making their own books, out of rubbish takes away the pressure and it becomes fun, which of course stimulates creativity and imagination. Using collage, existing words and pictures can be a starting point- all on a subconscious level. Grown-ups would do well to remember the ‘fun’ word too, never mind creative blocks, start doodling and cutting up old magazines, see what happens, never mind what for, why, does it look good or is it art? PLAY.

( eco mini-comics workshop in progress )

Which is what I did this weekend- many many thanks to the many folks that accompanied us in all our fun and those that organised Thought Bubble. We’ll be back!  ( and so will Hi-Ex in 2012! )

( rollerskating, zombie, hotpant girls )

( one for the dads )

Friday, November 19, 2010

Artswap, art fair & Leeds here we come

another fun thing I heard about on twitter is, Artswap. heres a great way for artists to give & receive other artists work from all over the world. The date for posting was 17th November, mine went far far across the sea. I hope the person likes it! above is what they will get.

The Christmas Fair exhibition at New Lodge, Kelso, Strathcarron is nearly hung and looking great!

I'm pleased that folks like my stag painting & its getting hung up by the stove in the centre of the room. All I need is to sell it and that would keep us in potatoes and lentils for a wee whiley!

Next> we are off to Thought Bubble, the festival of sequential arts in Leeds. Its a comic festival with a one day convention on the Saturday. I'll be doing a workshop on teh Sunday which John Freeman kindly wrote about on his Blog here. It will be on 'eco mini comics', so thats wee books, with pictures and stories, handmade from rubbish. I shall be working on mine on the train down there tomorrow. Hopefully I'll be able to share pictures & stories from the weekend & will try not show off too much about all the fabulous comic people I'll be hanging with. > must dash! its a 5.30am start